A book from every state in the Union.


Cate’s Book Nut Hut has a list of 50 books, one from each state. The Sound and the Fury is the book listed for Mississippi. If I were making such a list, and were choosing a Faulkner novel to represent MS, I would go with  Absalom, Absalom!

Cate plans to review a book from each state during 2014. What a fabulous idea.

image: Joliet82/DeviantArt

This is so good I have to share it.


I discovered this poem in my reader earlier today, and it grabbed me. The excerpt below is the first stanza; you can read the whole thing at Scholars and Rogues. “On High Places Lit By Stars,” by Kathryn Errickson. (Image: Pleiades by Phil Hart.)

This is where I do my best
thinking:     seven feet 
off the ground    
on the roof of a dented 
dodge;    one story 
up from doorsteps on silver-
coated tar;   leaning out 
windows with wind blowing
 the smell of growth 
                        and damp 
                                    and something else I don't have a name for.

Crafting the Message, pt. 3: Composition and Revision

The Sourcerer and Writing Catalog debut posts combined add up to 359 words. The two drafts I have posted on the sidebar are 563. Most of the difference in the word count is in the Sourcerer post. The final Writing Catalog post is only about five words shorter than the early draft, but it is radically different in tone.

I think one example will serve to illustrate my point. The idea of the Writing Catalog debut post was to give a little speech, since I did invite everyone to the ribbon-cutting earlier in the day. The speech was to answer the question posed in the title: “Why a writing catalog?”

Here is the first paragraph of the draft (even though it contains two line breaks, it is all one paragraph, organizationally-speaking):

The short answer is that I’ve never seen a site quite like the one I want to build.

The detailed version:

My sister is the proprietor of Part Time Monster, and she’s asked me to contribute there. And since I have been studying blogs for years, to help her figure out ways of building an audience for the PTM contributors, many of whom are writers.

Now, the first paragraph of the final version (again, the line break isn’t really a paragraph break).

Because my sister is a  Part Time Monster, and needs contributors. And she knows I’ve been playing with blogs for years. She wants an big audience for her writing and that means she must have more bloggers.

So I created this little affiliate. I tailored it to a more specific segment of the blogging community, and set it up to be a useful resource for writers once I accumulate a nice archive.

Here are a few things I notice about the differences.

1. I transformed Diana from the proprietor of a website into an actual Part Time Monster. That is the difference between description and metaphor, and I think it works rather well here, especially since the “Part Time Monster” title is explained at the link for anyone who cares to read it.

2. The final version transforms me from a person who knows something about blogs, and is helping with audience building, into a contributor who is doing Diana a good turn, because contributors are what she needs.

3. The final version gets to the purpose of The Writing Catalog immediately while the draft passage doesn’t mention that at all in the introduction. It also sets  up a transition that allows me to introduce Universal Half Truths later in the post. That link is not in the draft, and it would have been a mistake to publish without including it.

4. I think, overall, the final draft is a more smooth and easy read. It’s better-paced, and it sounds more like I am talking to real people – all of which are improvements.

I don’t need to quote the Sourcerer draft to explain how I arrived at the final version. It took about 45 minutes to write, and I spent the next 24 hours re-reading and cutting it. I was cutting it right up to the minute I published it. According to the WordPress dashboard, I went through 13 revisions after I pasted it in.

No one, not even Diana, saw it until I posted it. I cut with two things, and two things only, in mind — improving the flow and eliminating things I did not really need to say. My goal was to end up with something that read like the punchline to a joke, but communicated some very serious goals at the same time.

Now, for the order I did all this in.

First, I wrote the draft of the Writing Catalog debut. I sent it to Diana with specific instructions. I told her not to worry about editing or critiquing anything but major flaws, but she needed to read it because I was talking about her blog and trading on our sibling relationship. I made a little joke in the subject line of the email: “Your dragon is almost ready to bite,” referring, of course, to Sourcerer.

That joke was the seed of the Sourcerer post. I had known for a week what it needed to say, but I didn’t have the frame for it until I made the joke. As I was sitting down to write it, I thought “Why not push that joke to the point of absurdity and present Sourcerer as this mighty creature we’ve been training in secret?”

By the time I was done drafting the Sourcerer post, I realized I had to re-write the Writing Catalog debut to make it more crisp, and to make the tones of the two pieces more consistent. I had the revision complete before I received Diana’s ok on the draft I had sent her.

Once the re-write was done, I did not go back to the Writing Catalog post. I spent Wednesday night and Thursday morning connecting my blogs to as many networks as possible, and cutting the Sourcerer post.

This concludes Crafting the Message. Part 1 and Part 2 are in the archive; and this series has its own category.

I could not agree more.

This is C.J. Casey explaining to a poet-friend why she should read poetry. I am excerpting it because the larger point about the relationship between reading and writing will be a recurring theme here. Just scroll down and read my post from yesterday, or this comment thread at Scholars and Rogues, if you want to know how I feel about it. I’ve made liberal use of ellipses, because it’s a really long excerpt and I don’t want to just copy half a post. I have done my best to represent C.J. honestly here.

I haven’t yet said why you should read poetry. For this, I’m going to dip into the pool of metaphors, the pool of subconscious speech and imagery, the pool where we as writers go to pick out the phrases and images that we want to use for our writing. The actual pool itself is vast and inaccessible  . . . Most writers and artists have little pools of their own . . . and when we are casting about for an idea to write, or we want to add to something we want to write, we reach into the pool and pull out a handful of inspiration. This is the feeling you get when your paper suddenly fills itself of its own accord, when you feel like your pen is going to ignite because you’re writing so fast . . .

When we first discover that we, as creators, have access to this pool, it’s easy to get lost in the joy of creation. It feel so wonderful, better than any other experiences we’ve had in our young adult lives, to pull these ideas seemingly out of nowhere and pour them on paper. But unfortunately, the water in these pools is cloudy and opaque, We can’t see the bottom until one day we reach in and scrape our knuckles on the rock . . .

. . . The trick . . . is  to walk up the mountain, or around the mountain, where the collected subconscious of Mankind runs down in rivulets, cascades, and sometimes waterfalls. Do this, carrying your cap or a bowl, and dip it in. Then go back to your own pool and empty it . . . Let it mingle with your own ideas, your own subconscious. Let it form new worlds and new ideas. Then pull it out to work with it. This is essential… going to the works of others to recharge your own work. If you don’t, one day you will sit down to write and it will be as useful as trying to look out your elbow.

You can read the entire post at Stark Writing Mad. The post C.J. is responding to is at The 365 Poetry Project, which I follow with great interest.

Write Something.

goodwriter meme

That is my advice for today.

I thought about posting something about scene structure, or some thoughts from a successful author, but no. Drink coffee until you feel that vein in your temple start to throb (you know the one I am talking about), and unplug yourself from all your devices except the word processor.

Sit down in a corner somewhere and get writing. That is the only way to get where you’re trying to go.

If you just can’t do that, find a couple of well-written examples of what you are striving for and read them.